By Martin Wiles
“Don’t turn your
paper in after you put the last period.”
Sage advice I have
given over the years to my writing students. Unfortunately, advice few of them
have taken. More times than not, I watch them put the final punctuation mark,
rise from their desks, and bring the paper to me.
But let’s be fair. Students who are taught writing in their educational journey aren’t the only ones who detest editing. Unless we are an editor or English teacher, we probably don’t want to dabble in MUGS (Mechanics, Usage, Grammar, and Syntax).
This is when we need a healthy dose of reality. Unless an editor finds our devotion, article, or book manuscript exceptional, he or she is unlikely to overlook obvious grammar errors that we could have easily corrected. Especially when so many programs and apps are available to help us.
Polishing our writing to the best of our ability makes acceptance and publication more probable. Anything worth writing—whether published or not—is worth the time, effort, and money to make it shine. What we write about matters. So does how it appears.
The following are two practical tools:
- Grammarly – This program has a paid and a free version. The free version can now be downloaded as an add-on to Word. Although Grammarly still offers a Premium version, the free version will catch many common errors, such as incorrect article usage, redundancies, spelling errors, and other typos.
- Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) – This program is not free, but is reasonably priced. Subscribers pay monthly or annually. It will catch a few things the free version of Grammarly won’t, such as passive voice sentences and dangling modifiers.
These two programs will clean up a piece of writing, but, as I remind my students, they are computer-based—and a computer, as hard as it may try, cannot know positively what a writer attempts to say. I recommend a few other avenues for the serious writer.
- Purchase Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, both by Kathy Ide. Let’s face it. Not all writers are experts in grammar and editing. If they were, they’d probably be teaching or editing for a living. These two books offer telling resources to polish our writing.
- Join a critique group or enlist a critique partner who knows something about the writing world and the grammar world. I’ve heard it said that we shouldn’t enlist an English teacher. As an English teacher, I take some offense to that, but I do understand the statement. Just because a person is an English teacher doesn’t mean they are familiar with the publishing world.
- Pay an editor. Not just anyone who claims to be one, but one who has the experience and knows what they are doing. Preferably, one who has worked in the genre we write. Swinging the cost might tax our wallet, but the investment will be worth it in the end.
Whatever you write, polish it as much as possible. When you’ve reached the end of your expertise, let someone who is more experienced piggyback. Whatever you do, don’t edit out the edit.
(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and keattikorn.)
Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com) and
serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as a copy editor for
Courier Publishing. He has authored six books and has been published in
numerous publications. He is a freelance editor,
English teacher, author, and pastor.